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New Fast Company: Innovation as Resource

I'm back to blogging at Fast Company, and my latest piece is now up: Innovation as Resource and China's New Magnetism.

The U.K.'s Independent reports that China has been gradually cutting the amount of rare-earth elements it exports, now down 40% from seven years ago. China now exports only 25% of the rare-earth elements it mines. [...]

So what are our options? We (as in, the non-China parts of the industrialized world) could try to pressure China to sell more, but that's unlikely to work--and China tends not to respond well to even mild criticism. We could try to rapidly reopen the now-closed rare-earth element mines, but mining is, frankly, an environmental nightmare and incredibly dangerous--hardly a sustainable practice.

Our best option is to innovate our way out of the problem.

China, and to a lesser (but increasing) extent India, can be seen as "leapfrog superpowers" -- undergoing a rapid shift in global status, a shift which remains incomplete. China has more influence and importance on the global stage than it is willing to admit (preferring to call itself a developing nation), but not nearly the power that some fear.

The question is, does the immense potential power of China (and India) make a leapfrog transition easier or harder?


Asteroids. There are plenty of rare earth elements offworld. Or are we going to let them beat us out there, too?

Don't forget Brazil. It's a leapfrog country too and doing some very interesting things which are not only sugarcane ethanol. There are cities like Curitiba and Belo Horizonte which are doing some innovative things on their own which might be useful elsewhere.

Could only skim the Atlantic piece for now, but my thoughts are that this narrative of "don't worry about China" is, unfortunately, way off base. China has us exactly where it wants us, in the critical areas, the key variables, that could force a threshold shift in this social-ecological system. In both financial debt and mindset, we're trending fast, if not already past, key thresholds that will eventuate the US downfall and China's rise. We might not see or feel the visible effects, but in many ways, the shift has already occurred.

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